Pee-wee’s back – and he’s awesome

by Katie Chicklinski-Cahill

The summer before eighth grade, I made it my job to watch as much television as I could. Memorize commercials? Check. “Monkees” marathon on Nickelodeon? Don’t mind if I do. But the best thing I caught on cable that summer was “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” And because it was on cable, it was on like 80 times a day – perfect for memorizing dialogue, which is exactly what I did. And now, 200 years later, I can still recite the entire film, much to the dismay of friends and family.

So when Pee-wee’s new movie came out on Netflix last week, I admit I was more than a little suspicious. The original was awesome, and the follow up, “Big Top Pee-wee” was meh. So what the hell was this movie? And what, no Tim Burton? No Danny Elfman? No Francis, Tina, Large Marge or Dottie?

It’s pretty awesome, that’s what.

In the movie, Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) is living a quiet, uneventful life as a cook at a diner in Fairville, a town he’s never left. When actor Joe Manganiello (playing himself) shows up in a tight T-shirt and motorcycle and convinces Pee-wee to “live a little” and invites him to his birthday party in New York City, the adventure is on.

After a series of strange encounters, where he is kidnapped by chick bank robbers, visits a snake farm, almost gets married and meets up with a character whose actor is a cameo by one of the originals in “Big Adventure,” Pee-wee finally makes it to the Big Apple and to his friend Joe. (Their bromance is evident right from their first meeting, and Pee-wee’s dreams about him throughout the film are hilarious.)

The only place where “Big Holiday” really fell short was the soundtrack, which was superb in “Big Adventure” and still stands up as a solid recording on its own. In “Big Holiday,” the soundtrack is by Mark Mothersbaugh, and while it’s OK, it’s pretty forgettable.

But you go to Pee-wee for laughs, and for the most part, Reubens and co-writer Paul Rust and director John Lee get it right.

Oh, and the entire movie can be summed up in two words: Amish balloon – if this scene doesn’t make you laugh until you cry, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

Katie Cahill

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